Protecting Your Family's Future
 

Harris County Works with AG’s Office to Collect $150 in Child Support

The Harris County FOCAS program—an acronym for Focus on Collection and Services—worked in partnership with the Texas Attorney General’s office in 2015 to collect more than $150 million in child support payments.

The program, which has been in place for more than a decade, uses a range of legal tools to collect and enforce child support orders. Officials may legally withhold or garnish the wages of a non-custodial parent to pay child support. The county also uses state and federal tax refund intercepts, as well as liens and contempt proceedings. Federal tax intercepts make up about $2 million in annual receipts.

The FOCAS program is not mandatory in Harris County, but parties to a divorce will automatically be included unless they opt out. For custodial parents, there’s a real incentive to participate, as the average monthly support amount collected per case through FOCAS is $766.65, whereas individuals outside the program recover only an average of $530.64. Approximately 85% of parents in the FOCAS program pay their support in full and on time. Only 58% of those outside the program are compliant with court support orders.

Though the program is 12 years old, there are still many older support orders that are not subject to FOCAS. Authorities expect that, over the next few years, the number of non-FOCAS cases in the system will fall dramatically.

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At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to family law clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

 

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Tips on Winning at Life after Divorce

The end of your marriage can be devastating, leaving you feeling emotionally paralyzed. Though it may clearly be the best solution for everyone involved, it’s hard not to feel like a failure when you can’t make your marriage work. Here are some tips for moving forward after the divorce is final.

  • Say what you need to say—Often, what leads or contributes to divorce is a lack of communication. Frequently, this stems from a fear of where that will lead—arguments, hurt, divorce… Now it the time to put that type of behavior to rest. You’ll have a better chance of a happy life and a successful relationship in the future if you get into the habit of being open and honest about everything.
  • Take time to reacquaint yourself with “yourself”— Chances are pretty good that you have made a lot of sacrifices trying to keep the marriage together, including many of the things you love to do. Now is not the time to get into another relationship. The void in your life may incline to do just that, but you will be better served to get back in touch with who you are, what you value, and what makes you happy.
  • Try new things—After a divorce, you don’t have to worry about what anyone wants but you. If something seems like it would be fun, try it. You won’t have to worry about anyone else’s approval.
  • Let the past be the past—The past can be instructive, but you don’t want to live there. There may be things you need to say, just to get them out of your system, but don’t wallow in what went wrong. To the extent possible, look to the future and to the possibilities that lie there.

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At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Living Close for the Sake of the Children

In the aftermath of a divorce, one of the most challenging and emotionally difficult issues to deal with is not seeing your children, regardless of whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent. While the natural inclination may be to put some distance between you and your ex, some parents are choosing to stay close, primarily for the benefit of children.

One couple in Brooklyn, recently divorced, decided to keep their three-unit brownstone there, with one parent living on the second floor, the other living at the garden level, and the parties renting out the middle apartment. They say that, though it was a challenge at first to ensure that the privacy of all parties was respected, the arrangement has proved to be a huge benefit for everyone involved.  There is no need to pack for kids when they visit the other parent, no need to drop off children and pick them up. In addition, if either parent has a work emergency, the other is right there, able to step in and meet the needs of the children. For the kids, it ensures that they’ll never be too far away from their favorite book or stuffed animal.

For some parents, the concept of “bird-nesting” works, where the children stay in one home and the parents rotate in and out. Most who have tried it, though, say it presents a lot of challenges, requiring the visiting parent to constantly check to see if they have clothes and other necessary items.

The preferred approach of many is to stay a few blocks from each other, where they can walk to see of pick up children, and where children can easily commute back and forth.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Elder Divorce

In what is probably not a surprising trend, more and more couples are seeking divorce after their children have left home. A recent study by the Council for Contemporary Families, at the University of Texas at Austin, found that the divorce rate for people between the ages of 50 and 64 has jumped in the last few years.

Researchers say that divorce and re-marriage has long been a trend among baby boomers. What they now see, though, is that many boomers are filing for divorce…again. Experts attribute some of the increase to the perception that second marriages are typically less permanent and solid as first marriages. However, the study found that a significant percentage of boomers now filing for divorce are ending their first marriage, often after 35-40 years.

The study found a number of different motives for the late-in-life divorces. For many, there was no compelling reason for the divorce—the parties acknowledged that, after years of raising children and being held together by their common desire for the well-being of their children, they simply didn’t have a lot in common anymore. At the other end of the spectrum, though, were parties (mostly women) who now believe they can end a marriage in which they were victims of physical or mental abuse. In addition, the study found that many couples find they have a completely different view of retirement—some see it as an opportunity to travel and do things without the restriction of a job. Others simply want to stay at home.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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The Relationship Between Money Concerns and Marriage Rates

The Impact of Money Concerns on Marriage Rates

Studies show that, as American culture has moved toward gender equality in the workplace, the role of marriage has changed significantly. In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, more than twice as many adults over the age of 25 said they were not married, more than double the rate from a study done in 1960. Currently, one in five over 25 are single—in 1960, it was just nine percent.

According to researchers, the trend has been consistent over the last half century—each generation has been less inclined to enter into marriage than the previous one. Experts say the reasons are many, but that the single biggest factor has been the move toward gender and pay equality in the workplace.

Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, and How Love Conquered Marriage, says that access to birth control and improvements in household technology have made marriage less about economics and more about love and companionship. But before women started having greater opportunities and earning potential, many women considered their options limited and viewed marriage as the best economic alternative. Many men also perceived a wife as a benefit, but primarily as someone to take care of the home and cook the meals while the man provided for the family.

The Pew study found that men are more likely to stay single than women, a statistic that seems tied to the trend that more and more men under the age of 50 are not working (presumably living with parents). Of the single women polled, four out of five said that the most important characteristic in a potential mate would be a steady job. The odds of that—just slightly more than six employed men available for every 10 women.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Getting Temporary Support While Your Divorce is Pending

When your marriage has fallen apart, one of the most pressing immediate concerns is meeting the financial needs of you and your children (if you are the custodial parent.) Whether you realize it or not, as the custodial parent, you are entitled to child support from the time a divorce complaint is filed. There is no requirement that your divorce decree be finalized before your ex must provide you with support.

As a general rule, when you file a complaint for divorce, you also ask the court to issue what are known as pendente lite (pending litigation) orders. These are temporary orders that can address any number of issues, including:

  • Conservatorship and parenting access to minor children
  • Child support obligations
  • Spousal support obligations
  • The use of marital property, including who may reside in the marital home

The court can also enter an order that prohibits both parties from “wasting” marital assets, incurring any new debt or destroying marital property.

To determine the amount of child support, the court will use a formula that takes into account the incomes of both parents. The judge can also make modifications based on any special needs of the children or the parties.

If the court has issued orders granting child support, spousal support, custody or visitation, and your ex is not in compliance with those requirements, you can return to the court to seek enforcement of the decree. Your ex can be held in contempt of court, subject to certain criminal penalties.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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The Pros and Cons of a Prenuptial Agreement

If you are considering getting married, and you are bringing significant assets into the marriage, or have children from a previous marriage, you may be thinking about putting a prenuptial agreement in place. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of a prenuptial agreement.

The Benefits of a Prenuptial Agreement

A valid prenuptial agreement can allow you to:

  • Identify what is and what is not marital or community property
  • Protect any property you owned before the marriage
  • Ensure that your estate plan is followed
  • Minimize expense and acrimony if the marriage fails.
  • Clearly state any unique or special agreements between parties

Contrary to what many believe, a prenuptial agreement can strengthen a marriage. If money and financial matters are a major concern, identifying in advance how they will be dealt with removes any uncertainty, and allows you to focus on your relationship. In a healthy marriage, money is a necessary topic for discussion. If you discuss it up front, it can lead to greater openness and communication in other areas as well.

The Detriments of a Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement is essentially a business decision. If your marriage is not fundamentally built on financial expectations, needs or desires, there may be no need for a prenuptial agreement. If love or romance is at the core, a prenup will seldom support or enhance that.

Sometimes, though, the timing may just be wrong. If you discuss financial matters too early in a relationship, you may never be able to get past the perception that your marriage is mostly about money.

Before you enter into a prenuptial agreement, you want to check with a lawyer. Based on what you want to protect, you may not need a signed document—you may be protected by existing provisions in state law.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at (281) 420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Divorce Won’t Necessarily Set You Free

One of the Big Divorce Myths—Divorce Will Set You Free

When you are stuck in an unhappy marriage, you can mistakenly believe that a divorce equates with freedom…that you’ll be able to do many of the things that you couldn’t, that you won’t have to structure your life around someone else for a change. If you have no children, that might be true. But you could still be hit with alimony payments or find yourself unable to sustain the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed.

The Many Losses of Freedom that Come with Divorce

Some of the losses are pretty straightforward. If you have minor children, you will quickly lose most of your control over what you do with your time. If you are the custodial parent, you’ll find that you have to spend a lot more time parenting. You won’t be able to let your spouse take over every other night or on the weekend if you have other plans. Accordingly, you’ll discover that taking care of your children takes priority over your social life. You may have been involved in a lot of activities, with an arrangement with your ex-spouse that allowed you to be gone some evenings. Now you’ll either have to get a sitter, or arrange to do things only on those nights that your child is with your ex.

If you are the non-custodial parent, you’ll need to get used to having your children with you every other weekend, alternating holidays and maybe a night a week. When events you want to participate in fall on your weekend, or a night when you have your children, you’ll be faced with a choice.

Divorce can result in the loss of financial freedom as well, for both parties. If you were the primary provider and a good saver and investor, with a well-organized system for managing family finances, you’ll have to give up a lot of that. You may be ordered to pay child support and/or spousal support, but you won’t have any control over how the money gets spent. In addition, your support obligations may make it difficult to build an investment portfolio, buy the things you used to, or make decisions about what your children wear and how their needs are met.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Texas Divorce Laws — An Overview

Divorce in Texas—An Overview

Before you think seriously about getting a divorce in Texas, it’s a good idea to learn as much about the process as you can. Here’s an overview of divorce in Texas.

Qualifying to File in Texas

Like most states, Texas requires that you have a minimum period of residency in the state before you can file for divorce. At least one of the parties to a divorce action in Texas must have lived in the state for the six month period immediately preceding the filing. This applies to military personnel as well. As a soldier, you need not have been a resident of Texas before being stationed there, but you must have served at one of the state’s military installations for a minimum of six months before the divorce action is filed.

In addition, at least one of the parties to the divorce must have resided in the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days immediately prior to the filing of the complaint.

Grounds for Filing

Although you don’t need to state grounds for filing—Texas allows no-fault divorce—doing so can gain you some advantage in property distribution and alimony determinations. Texas allows a party to file an at-fault-based divorce complaint for the following reasons:

  • The other spouse committed adultery
  • The other spouse engaged in physical or mental cruelty
  • The other spouse was convicted of a felony, has served at least one year in the penitentiary in Texas or another state, and has not been pardoned.
  • The other spouse is confined to a mental hospital for at least three years
  • The other spouse has abandoned the marriage or the marital partner

Alimony or Spousal Support

A Texas court has the discretion to award spousal support on a limited basis. The court may grant temporary or permanent alimony, based on a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, the earning capacity of the parties, and any evidence of domestic violence or abuse.

Child Custody, Visitation and Support

In Texas, decisions that affect minor children must give priority to the best interests of the child. Child support is generally calculated using a state formula, but the court may amend the amount to be paid, based on the needs of the child and the ability of the parents to provide. Texas courts encourage agreements that allow minor children to have regular and meaningful contact with both parents. The parties may agree to the terms of custody and visitation, but the court may impose different conditions if they believe doing so is in the best interests of the child.

Contact Us

At the office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 8 years of experience to clients in south Texas. To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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Who’s at Greater Risk of Divorce—Doctors, Nurses or Executives?

Who Has the Highest Divorce Rate—Doctors, Nurses or Executives?

Though the common perception is that medical professionals, particularly physicians, have a higher rate of divorce than individuals in other professions, a recent study actually found doctors to be at less risk than many other professionals. The study, which used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, looked at the divorce rates of more than 6.5 million professionals, including approximately 250,000 doctors.

The Findings

Contrary to popular belief, the study found the divorce rate for physicians to be less than one in four (24%), whereas one in three nurses who married could expect it to end in divorce. Health care executives had a significantly higher divorce rate than doctors (31%), and all professionals outside of health care had a 35% divorce rate. Lawyers also had a higher divorce rate than doctors, at 27%.

On the down side, the research showed that female doctors were almost 50% more likely to have a marriage end in divorce than their male counterparts. Another interesting discovery—while female doctors who worked more than 40 hours a week had the highest divorce rates within the medical community, the opposite proved true for male doctors—working less than 40 hours per week increased their likelihood of divorce.

The study, published by The BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), attributed the higher rates of divorce among female doctors to the additional trade-offs that come with being a mother and a professional.

Contact Stewart Law, PLLC

At the law office of Linda Stewart Law, PLLC, in Baytown, we bring more than 10 years of experience to clients in south Texas.

To learn how we can help, call our office at 281-420-8020 or contact us online. We offer an initial consultation at a reduced fee of $50. We accept credit cards and will set up a payment plan, if appropriate. Our offices are open Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., and until noon on Fridays. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request.

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